MoboReader> Literature > Whispers at Dawn; Or, The Eye

   Chapter 8 DOWN A BEAM OF LIGHT

Whispers at Dawn; Or, The Eye By Roy J. Snell Characters: 6611

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Grace Krowl, the girl from Kansas, found plenty of things to occupy her thoughts as she sank into a chair in one of the two small rooms allotted to her on the upper floor of her uncle's store in Chicago.

"A store in Chicago." She laughed low. Her uncle's store in Chicago. What dreams had she not dreamed of this store? Chicago was a grand city. His store must be a grand place. She had of late pictured it as a six-story building; pure fancy, for he had never written about its size or importance. In fact, he had not written at all until she had written first and asked for a position as clerk in his store. He had been married to her mother's sister. The sister was dead.

When Grace had needed work badly she had written, and he had replied briefly: "I can give you work at fifteen dollars per week and board."

So here she was. And her uncle's store was little more than a hole in the wall. No counters, no glass cases. Things piled in heaps, and all secondhand; glass dishes here, bed covers there, dresses, sheets, towels, everything. And in the corner, like so many skeletons, a great pile of bruised, battered and empty trunks.

"He buys trunks, other people's trunks." She shuddered afresh.

Then the words of her new-found friend of the bookstore came to her. "Diamonds, stocks and bonds." These were dreams. "But rare old books, wonderful bits of Irish lace, why not?" Perhaps, after all, she could drive away the ache that came in her throat at the thought that someone who truly loved these things had lost them because they were poor.

She thought of her own trunk and laughed aloud. What a sight that must have been-she snatching at her prized possessions and those other women poking her and banging her on the head!

Of course it had all been a mistake. She had come to Chicago by bus and had sent on her trunk by express. The van that went for her trunk had also picked up a half dozen others which her uncle had bought at auction. The trunks had become mixed. The lock had been pried off her own and the contents were being sold when she arrived. Everything had been retrieved except a pearl-backed brush she prized and a hideous vase she abhorred.

"That did not turn out so badly," she assured herself. "Perhaps everything will come along quite as well." And yet, as she took a handful of silver coins and one paper dollar from her purse and added them up, her face was very sober. She was a long way from home, and there could be no retreat.

The place she was to call home was above the store. Too tired and preoccupied to notice at first, she received a shock when she at last became conscious of her surroundings. The room in which she sat was a tiny parlor, all her own. Off from that was a bedroom. Everything-?furniture, rugs, decorations,-?was in exquisite taste and perfect harmony.

"Contrast!" she exclaimed. "Who could ask for greater contrast? Rags below, and this above!" She stared in speechless surprise.

One thing astonished her. Opposite the window in the parlor was an oval, concave mirror, like an old-fashioned light reflector. It was some two feet across.

"I wonder why it is here," she murmured. She was to wonder more as the days passed.

When she had prepared herself for the night's rest, she snapped out the light, then stood fo

r a brief time at the open window looking out into the night. She was on the second floor of her uncle's small building. Before her were the low, flat roofs of some one-story shacks. Looking far beyond these, she saw squares of light against the night sky. These she knew were lighted windows of distant skyscrapers. There were thousands of these windows.

"What can they all do at night?" she asked herself. "Struggling to make money, to get on, to keep their families housed and fed," the answer came to her. Then, strangely enough, her mind carried her back over the trail that had brought her to this city. It had been an interesting adventure, that long bus ride. Six of the passengers, including herself, had ridden hundreds of miles together. They had become like a little community.

"It was as if these were pioneer days," she told herself now. "As if we were journeying in covered wagons in a strange new land." One of these long distance passengers, as you will know, had been a young man. In his golf knickers and soft, gray cap, he had seemed a college boy. But he was not. "Out of college and at work," was the way he had expressed it.

"What work do you do?" she had asked.

He had hesitated before replying. Then his answer had been vague. "Oh, I just look after people."

"Look after people?"

"Lots of people. All sorts." A queer smile had played about the corners of his mouth.

She had not pressed the question further. But now, standing there looking out into his city at night, she whispered, "His name was Drew Lane. Wonder if I'll ever see him again? I hope so. He seemed a nice boy, and I should love to know how he looks after 'lots of people-all sorts.'"

She looked again at the many lighted windows. Suddenly those who toiled there seemed very near to her. She found a strange comfort in this.

"I, too, must do my best," she told herself. "God help me to be wise and strong, helpful to others and kind to all!" she prayed as she gave herself over to sleep.

She was wakened at dawn by a whisper. At first, so closely did dream life blend with the life of day, it seemed natural that she should be listening to this whisper. When she had come into full consciousness she sprang out of bed with a start.

"Good morning!" The words came in slowly, a distinct whisper. "We hope you are happy this morning. Cheerio! That's the word!"

"When you have dressed," the whisper continued, "won't you just step out into the little parlor and take a seat by the table? It will be good to have a look at your shining face."

"Someone in my little parlor! I don't like it. And that whisper!"

She dressed hurriedly, then stepped through the door. What sort of person had she expected to see? Probably she could not have told. What she did see was an empty room.

Greatly astonished, hardly knowing why she obeyed the whispered orders, she took a seat by the table. Instantly the whisper began once more:

"Ah! There you are! I am talking to you over a beam of light. I am a mile away. I have interesting things to tell you. You are going to aid me."

For a brief space of time the whisper ended. The girl's mind was in a whirl. "Talking down a beam of light!" she thought. "What nonsense! Going to aid that whisperer?" Here surely was some strange mystery.

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